Boxing writers help foment acrimony in the sport
Watching the feud between Golden Boy and Top Rank play out in the media has been a bit like being in a car crash. You can see exactly what’s about to happen, almost like it’s in slow motion, but you’re powerless to do anything about it.
Except that members of the boxing media aren’t entirely powerless. Reporters have some (small) influence on fans (we’d like to think) and, in turn, on the promoters and networks who need those fans to make a buck. So the way that the boxing media reports a story like the GBP-TR feud can have an effect on the story itself.
And the effect that we’ve had hasn’t been good. It’d be fair to say that the media is partly responsible for Bob Arum no longer being on Golden Boy’s Christmas card list, and vice versa.
Much of the online coverage of what happened in the aftermath of the Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather negotiations (or lack thereof, depending on who you believe) has added little to what we know. Instead, morsels of new information have been used as excuses to drag up and repeat old news.
There’s nothing wrong with reporting what important figures in the sport have said, but building a story by getting a new quote every day and tacking it on is just tiresome. In fact, it doesn’t just report the dispute, it perpetuates it.
Boxingscene.com, one of the best news breakers in the business, did exactly that in the weeks after the negotiations fell apart. Time and again, they published a tidbit of news along with a lengthy rehash of the bad blood between the promoters. In one piece, a single new quote from Richard Schaefer was used to justify reprinting all the various utterances and statements of Leonard Ellerbe, Ross Greenburg, Oscar De La Hoya and Bob Arum.
Boxingscene was approached by RingTV.com but declined to comment.
Lance Pugmire, the Los Angeles Times’ boxing correspondent, took a different approach with his story about Golden Boy and Top Rank. Even though it was published a week after the events described in the other articles, Pugmire’s story had a new revelation at its heart; that Schaefer and Arum hadn’t spoken personally since January.
Pugmire spoke to both men at the time of writing the story and didn’t rely on previous statements or quotes.
“I know Arum disputes that he ever said: ‘I was lying yesterday but I’m telling the truth today,’ but things do change in this business. That’s why it’s important to check in on these guys as quickly as you can on a fast moving story like the Mayweather-Pacquiao negotiations,” said Pugmire.
Coverage of this puddle of spilled milk has also zeroed in on the personal war of words between Schaefer and Arum. The nasty things that promoters say about each other are eye catching, but if they don’t add anything to a story but bitterness, then journalists are contributing to the problem by choosing to report them.
Arum had some pretty nasty things to say about De La Hoya and Schaefer in an interview the day after Greenburg’s statement. By no means is this a one way street; Schaefer has also said spiteful things about Arum in the past.
A reporter’s obligation is to get the other side of the story, especially when malicious and insulting things are being said, so it’s questionable whether a Q and A format was appropriate for the Arum interview. Whether it was or not, it’s an example of media coverage prolonging what had already become a tiresome dispute.
In an environment where the only coverage of the two men is about their bad blood, and reporters shuttle back and forth seeking replies to the latest insults, a feud becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.
Pugmire can’t recall whether either Arum or Schaefer personally attacked the other while talking to him. If they did, he chose not print it.
“If it has something to do with the specific topic that I’m talking about, then I would use it. But to just let someone take a cheap shot at another individual, I don’t think that’s fair,” he said.
It’s not a boxing writer’s job, no matter how much they love boxing, to withhold information from the public ‘for the good of the sport’. Though choosing not to use quotes because they’re meaningless bile is a different matter. You don’t have to print something just because a promoter said it.
Top Rank and Arum declined to comment, but Golden Boy's Schaefer told RingTV.com that he generally attempts to avoid the media when negotiating fights.
“Through the media, fighters and promoters try to take a stand about an issue and often it becomes an ego play and that just isn't helpful,” he said. “In any negotiation when the ego becomes involved and you start developing this back and forth, it's not productive. It can kill a deal, not make one.”
Schaefer admits that he sometimes gives information about fights in the works to the media, but tries not to get drawn in to wars of words like the most recent one.
He hasn’t been very successful. Schaefer also took aim at the culture of acrimony in boxing, which he thinks is perpetuated by some online boxing writing.
“The fact is that there are educated boxing journalists and then you have these other sites that are writing all these trashy stories,” he said. “These kinds of people would never have gotten a job at a newspaper, but online is much more flexible. I think that it doesn't help the sport of boxing.”
The former banker is probably right; some of the fault for the feud between the Golden Boy and Top Rank lies at the feet of the boxing media. But even at its worst, the media has only been a conduit between the promoters. Schaefer, Arum and the others would do well to remember that.
Alex McClintock is a free-lance writer in Australia. He can be reached at [email protected] and @axmcc on Twitter.